Caputo wants slots at New Jersey racetracks

A man with a plan B: Assemblyman Ralph Caputo wants to authorize VLT’s at New Jersey racetracks. (Image:

New Jersey’s northern casino expansion plan may be doomed in the minds of even its most fervent supporters, but one politician from the state’s north, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28th), believes he has come up with the next best thing: slot machines.

Or to be precise, video lottery terminals (VLT’s). But let’s just call them slots because, face it, no one really knows the difference, which is precisely Caputo’s point.    

“It’s the same thing,” he patiently explained to the Associated Press. “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

Political Quackery

Ralph Caputo, a former casino worker himself, was one of the main sponsors of legislation that sought a public referendum on whether to permit new casinos close to New Jersey’s border with New York. But while the referendum will go ahead on November 8th, it is unlikely to result in a victory for the pro-expansion push.

Polling has shown there to be little appetite among voters for the proposal to break Atlantic City’s longstanding monopoly on casino gaming by creating two new licenses in the north, so much so that even the prospective developers have given up hope.

Last month, millionaire investor Paul Fireman and real estate mogul Jeff Gural announced they would pull their media advertising campaign extolling the benefits of expansion, apparently unwilling to plow more money into a lost cause.

So instead, Caputo wants to introduce VLT’s to the state’s racetracks, including the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, owned by Gural, and one of the sites earmarked for a possible new casino resort.    

Back in the Game!

The point is, New York has VLT’s across the border, a factor that has disrupted the footfall to New Jersey’s racetracks.

As Caputo triumphantly told the Associated Press this week: “This is a way to get back into the game.”

Gambling expansion in New Jersey beyond Atlantic City requires constitutional amendment, which, in turn, requires a public referendum. But Caputo has dug out a 1982 statement from then-AG Irwin Kimmelman, who opined that the introduction of VLT’s would not require an amendment to the state Constitution.

In fact, the difference between slots and VLTs is actually quite crucial here, and here it is:

All VLT’s in a casino or racetrack are linked together, forcing players to compete against one another for the prize, instead of against the house. Therefore, VLT’s have more in common with bingo or poker than traditional casino games, although, to the gambler, the effect is much the same.

Caputo has resolved to amend two bills he introduced at the beginning of the year, both of which sought to authorize slot machines, in a bid to overturn inconvenient legislation passed 1983 that contradicts the 1981 AG ruling. And then he can do away with those pesky constitutional referendums altogether.